The bitterness of pale ale is a pleasant foil for the inherent sweetness of autumnal squashes, which act like sponges here, soaking up all the beer they’re braised in once they've been cooked tender. A drizzle of pale ale honey further accentuates the bittersweet contrast, while a sprinkling of gremolata, made with sweet orange zest and earthy sunflower seeds, adds plenty of crunch and texture to offset the custard-smooth squash.
Of all the fall/winter squashes you can buy, thin-skinned varieties like Delicata and Honey Nut are best here because you can eat the peel, saving you valuable prep time and from having to pare off the tough skin of other squashes. However, if you do want to use other squashes like acorn, butternut, or kabocha, simply peel off their skins before cooking and bake those varieties for 35 to 40 minutes total, flipping them over halfway through.
For the sunflower seed gremolata:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups (3 1/2 ounces) leftover sourdough bread crumbs
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
For the squash:
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) pale ale
3 1/2 pounds thin-skinned squash, such as Delicata or Honey Nut, halved and seeds removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons honey
1. Make the gremolata: Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the sunflower seeds, and continue cooking, stirring and tossing, until the breadcrumbs are crisp and brown and the seeds are toasted, 2 minutes more.
2. Transfer the breadcrumbs and seeds to a bowl and immediately stir in the orange zest. Let the mixture cool, then stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the gremolata to a airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
3. Make the squash: Heat the oven to 375°F. Pour 1 tablespoon of the pale ale into a small bowl and reserve. Pour the remaining beer into a large rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Place the squashes, cut side-down, on the sheet and bake until they can be easily pierced with a knife, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven and let the squashes rest until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the honey into the 1 tablespoon reserved pale ale.
4. Transfer the squash to a cutting board and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges or slices. Arrange them on a large serving platter. Drizzle with the honey mixture, then scatter the gremolata over the top to serve.
Photo by Liz Clayman